Winmar warning after death knocked
Former AFL star Nicky Winmar with partner Beth Hooper. Picture: Ian Munro, The West Australian

Celebrated indigenous footballer Nicky Winmar thought he was going to die during a heart attack he describes as a life-changing experience.

The 46-year-old had crushing chest pains last Thursday morning and was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital.

And 20 years on from when he championed the Aboriginal cause after racial abuse at Victoria Park in Melbourne, Winmar urged Aboriginals to get regular medical help.

In 1993 when playing for St Kilda, Winmar put racism in football in the spotlight when he lifted his jumper and pointed to his skin after taunts from Collingwood supporters.

Winmar and Beth Hooper, his partner of 12 years, were staying with an aunt in Midland when death came knocking about 1am.

Bewildered and in suffocating pain, Winmar belted his fist against his chest several times in an effort to alleviate the discomfort, thinking it might be heartburn.

"I've had knee injuries and shoulder injuries and sharp pains from football but this one just kept going," he said. "I felt this massive pain in my chest. I thought I was going to die there where I was because it was so sharp and painful."

In the ambulance to RPH, the St Kilda and WAFL halls of fame member, who was also in the AFL's indigenous team of the century, thought he would battle to get through the ordeal and his thoughts turned to his father, Neil.

Winmar played in the 1997 grand final against Adelaide after his father died at 50 from heart problems on the eve of the match. He was buried with his son's grand final guernsey.

"I want other people to know, even my own family and indigenous people, to go and see a doctor," he said.

"You've got to stop smoking. You've got to stop drinking. I'm not going to lie, I smoked and I drank."

Winmar was released from hospital on Monday and will have tests in about two weeks to monitor his recovery.

The West Australian

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